Category Archives: Bitter/ESB

Young Henrys ‘Real Ale’ Best Bitter

Rating:

18057637_681836508667164_626769631882701101_n“The Real Ale is our take on a traditional Best Bitter. In other words, where British style meets Australian tastes. We start with a 50/50 blend of English and Australian malts then add three of our favourite varieties of Aussie hops; Topaz, Galaxy and Ella. This gives a New World kick to an Old World classic. Thanks to some lingering sweet toffee and caramel flavours, the Real Ale packs loads of flavour into a 4% beer. So much so that we were invited to the UK for the 2014 International Real Ale Festival and were incredibly honoured to see this beer pick up the Gold medal, matching it with some big hitters from the home of Best Bitters.”

Served in an English pint. Slightly hazy deep amber complexion with a short head topping it off. Good retention though, allowing a wavy lace to stick to the glass as we imbibe.
Quite a simple aroma, but very effective. It obviously focusses on the sweet bready malt with caramel meeting the floral and earthy hops. Some jammy characters in here, marmalade and apricot come forward with a nice toasty note working in. Something candy-ish in here that we just can’t put our finger on. Toffee apple maybe? Either way it’s a nice touch.
Super smooth in the mouth. Creamy texture, mild Co2 and a very gentle bitterness. Just 4% ABV as well so session ability is what it seems the brewers are going for here.
The flavour backs up with a big impression of white bread, caramel, earthy hop and light florals. Somewhat of a nutty middle makes way for a super smooth finish which reveals biscuity malt, subtle herbs and dough on the back end.
We can now see how this ale picked up a gold medal in the UK real ale festival, it’s about as traditional as you can get. Wouldn’t be surprised if we saw this pouring right next to a tap of London Pride in any classic English pub.

Bad Shepherd Brewing Co ‘Brew Crew #1’ ESB

Rating:

17951937_679769282207220_5147722591779435490_n“It’s an ESB (Extra Special Bitter) made by Dan (the barman) and a beer that captures the essence of the man himself. Some sweetness (from the malt), a touch fruity (from the yeast esters) but mostly dry and bitter. To be any more like Dan this ESB would need to have tattoos and stay away from social media.”

Served in an English pint. Amber in appearance with a modest finger of head that takes its time to dissipate to a ring. It laced extremely well for the lack of head.
Very interesting aroma. There’s one certain element that lifts out and smacks us in the face and that is peanuts. Almost every variation of the nut is here. Be it husk, salted or crushed. It’s very prominent. The downfall would be that it almost prevents anything else from coming through. Alas, we do pick up suggestions of toasty malt, dried apricot, white bread and spicy hops, albeit conservatively. A little unbalanced but certainly appealing.
The mouth feel is dry and somewhat frothy in texture. The body is on the fuller side of medium while the 34 IBU carves out an assertive bitterness upfront. Good Co2.
The flavour combines a mix of nutty, bready and sweet malts with a touch of tangy orange citrus initially. Hints of light floral hops jag in and transition through the mid. Quite earthy as it moves forward towards a toasty/nutty finish which offers good length.
Our first crack at this breweries range. Quite a solid offering for the most part but a little lacking in others. The aroma was nice but unbalanced and the mouth feel and flavour although enjoyable, just didn’t hit home for us. Maybe a bit of a tough review but we’ll definitely be keen on trying the rest of their range.

Bacchus Brewing Co ‘Bighook’ ESB

Rating:

16996312_652110018306480_1875532199909450282_n“We have used the traditional English hop Fuggle with the addition of some European Noble hops to give this classic style a nice spicy twist. Caramel malt sweetness is beautifully balanced by the hops to create a full flavoured easy drinking ale.”

Served in an English pint. We’re met with a deep rusted amber hue with a thumb of beige head over the top. Steady reduction, eventually settling to a fine layer of loose bubble that leaves a blotchy lace as it ebbs.
We know, we have an unhealthy obsession with Bacchus right now but with aromas like this you can not blame us! This simply hits its mark…and then some. A big impression of caramel malt wafts out while earthy hops pair up with the characteristic spicy floral notes of European Noble. Subtle apricot and white bread hinge on the lightly toasted malt backing as a soft syrupy honey fills it out. Brilliant.
All the aromas you could possible want in an ESB are here.
Nice effortless progression over the tongue with a bit of weight coming in from the body. Soft, squeaky texture with a carefully lifted Co2. 35 IBU.
That superb balance between the caramel malt sweetness and floral spicy hop carries in to the flavour with a steady push from the earthy Fuggles. Lovely bitterness through the middle as it sails in to a dry finish that offers a moreish buttery toffee sweetness on the rear. Heaven.
The best thing about this drop, in our opinion, is that you wouldn’t need to be a big ESB fan to enjoy it. It’s impeccably balanced, approachable, versatile and slightly hoppier than your traditional style. It’s interpretations like this that lead us to believe that they’re better on tap rather than the hand pump. Top shelf.

Five Barrel brewing ESB

Rating:

15875562_625573874293428_3457848345518577427_o“English bitters typically fall into three varieties: Mild, Bitter and Extra Special Bitter or ESB. They all share the same affinity for malt and hops, but vary in strength and flavour. We love English style beers and thought we’d better develop a beer good enough to be served from a genuine hand pump. We don’t use conventional hop varieties for our ESB, but we reckon they play an awesome part in creating a malt forward style ale with a rounded hop flavour. Marmalade, orange and spice balanced wonderfully with a sweet toffee malt base. Best served at cellar temperature (12C) to get the most out of the English yeast we use.”

Served in an English pint. She pours a deep amber complexion with a short diminishing head. It eventually collapses to a wispy overlay with minimal lace left in its wake.
The aroma offers up hallmark caramel scents, albeit conservatively, along with an initial dusty character that thankfully disappears after a few minutes. Subtle wafts of candy, jaffa, orange citrus and nutmeg not only give the aroma a slightly unique edge but really helps to fill it all out. We had grave fears for this aroma but it has somehow pulled an ace from its sleeve.
In the mouth it’s a little thin and slippery. The Co2 is moderate as is the body. The 35 IBU develops late to add much needed life to the texture. Too watery for our liking though.
The front palate does see a nice little fusion between the sweet caramel malts and the very subtle citrusy hops but it’s short lived as the mild bitterness kicks in to gear midway. There isn’t a great deal of variation to follow as the sweet caramel malts return for the mild finish.
Yeah, not really convinced here. The sweet caramel flavours aren’t supported by a big enough body. The texture is a bit thin and the aroma had us guessing for a bit there. The foundations of the beer are here it just seems to lack the intensity and depth required to be a good ESB.

Alesmith Brewing Company ‘Anvil’ ESB

Rating:

15542267_615710418613107_3538361103453959175_n“Anvil ESB is our interpretation of a traditional British-style pub ale. Deep amber in color, a toasty character from British malts and a touch of kettle caramelization blend seamlessly with a mild English hop profile. Its delicate balance of flavors will keep you coming back pint after pint, making it a complex creation we’re proud to call our flagship beer.”

Served in an English pint. The appearance offers a deep amber that reveals a candy red hue when held to the light. A short pancake head is generated but it reduces to a halo with minimal lace.
The nose provides that perfect balance of caramel sweetness against the biscuity malt backing. Loads of chewy butterscotch, toffee, spice and apricot give it that firm bottom end for the light floral hops and savoury nutty characters to work off of. They’ve certainly nailed the traditional component while simultaneously handing it a bit of that American flare. Brilliant way to start off.
The mouth feel is super smooth, almost silky with a mild bitterness forming at the back end. The body is nice and plump with a moderate Co2 level. The 5.5% ABV is obviously higher than your traditional ESB but it’s well masked and again reflects the American temperament in this beer.
We get a really swift progression of flavour starting off with that gorgeous caramel sweetness that transitions in to the kind of buttery/biscuity mid palate. Flashes of herbal hops annex as the bitterness is introduced, leading to a mildly dry, nutty and somewhat earthy finish that endures well on the rear.
Excellent drop. Trust the master brewers of Alesmith to do it again. The succinct precision on show here is world class, its tough to imagine any one not loving this. Solid offering.

3 Ravens ‘USB’ ESB

Rating:

14993496_593400590844090_7357690522077131957_n“A rich, layered, deep amber coloured beer dominated by hearty toffee malts, alongside raisiny dark fruit and spicy characteristics.”

Served in an English pint. A deep copper pour aroused a gushing four finger head that wants to spill out of the glass. She’s not much of a stayer though as it hastily retreats and eventually establishes a loosely held blanket which produces some spotty lace as it subsides. The nose is providing some incredible aromas. It’s like your typical ESB but on steroids. Every aspect is amplified – the chocolate malts are heady, rich and in-your-face while this almost rum or port character hands it a boozy feel that actually isn’t really there. We get additional wafts of cola, dark bready malts, toffee, pumpernickel and a complex spicy rye accent. Brilliant stuff. The beer is quite chewy and well weighted without being overly heavy on the palate. A surprisingly high Co2 actually works extremely well with the subtle warmth from the 6.1% ABV. The flavour follows on from the nose impeccably….just as we were hoping. This fusion of rich malts, caramel, rum/port and chocolate has the taste buds in a frenzy. As it progresses we get more of a dark fruit character that reveals spicy notes through the mid. A firm bitterness along with a delicate alcohol warmth preludes a dry but sweet and fruity finish with suggestions of port and toffee enduring on the rear. Wow! What an absolutely superb drop. It’s like no other ESB we’ve ever had. This has some kind of boozy potency but still holds just a 6.1% ABV. The rum/port notes are a masterstroke and we’re at odds at how the brewers have managed to incorporate it so effectively. Super stuff.

 

Red Hook Brewery ESB

Rating:

14470666_573156116201871_2457386547847673338_n“Redhook’s flagship beer got its start as a winter seasonal recipe in the mid 80’s. In the early years, Extra Special Bitter earned a reputation as ‘banana beer’ and has been brewed continuously since 1987. ESB’s caramel malt sweetness and subtle spice and fruit hop flavors, quickly defined the style, becoming Seattle’s definitive craft beer and inspiring a new wave of craft beers across the country.”

Served in an English pint. The honey complexion is capped off by a loosely held finger of foam that rapidly diminishes to an island of micro-bubble. As to be expected there’s no lacing in sight. We get a bold, lifted caramel scent on the nose initially. Lots of honey, lots of toffee, bready/doughy malts, earthy hops and maybe some light florals running through as well. All pretty commonplace aromas for an ESB. We get the feeling the brewers are going for a more traditional ESB here, in that case we can’t really fault the aroma. Pretty safe but it hits its mark well. In the mouth it’s super smooth and silky in texture. The 28 IBU offers very little in bitterness while the 5.8% ABV is nicely contained. Mild-medium in body. Not a great deal happening but it would be a go to session beer if you love knocking back numerous malt forward bevvies. The flavour is like a mirror image of the aroma – big on caramel sweetness, honeyed malts, toffee and toast. We do detect hints of floral hops laced through along with buttery biscuits and a faint nutty character in the finish. She has a nice lingering dryness on the back palate too. It’s a bit of a strange one. Every time we’re about to say something negative it ends up being more of a positive. It kind of has that “oldy but a goldy” feel to it. Similar to how Coopers hold their respect among craft beer drinkers here in Australia, it would escape a lot of scrutiny in the States. Either way, it’s a decent traditional interpretation of an ESB that hits its mark on all fronts. Not bad.

Deschutes Brewery ‘Big Rig’ Bitter

Rating:

13921087_554289831421833_2825549116802582190_n“This classic Pub Ale has been an annual favorite at our pubs for years, and now it’s heading down the road…in bottles. Inspired by a love for outside play (and the big truck driven by one of the beer’s original brewers), Big Rig balances a smooth, silky maltiness with crisp, floral notes and just the right bitterness from Crystal hops. Good time to drink? Anytime and anywhere, preferably with a side of sweet baby back ribs.”

Served in an English pint. The bright amber pour offers surprisingly good clarity. Over the top a frothy two finger head forms which gradually collapsed to a fine film with a smattering of random lace left clinging to the glass. The nose is sweet, doughy and malt-forward with an emphasis on caramel and butterscotch. The American influence isn’t far behind though as floral and herbaceous hop notes hit the olfactory’s almost simultaneously. Because it’s pretty much simultaneous the balance of sweet malt and floral hops marry together harmoniously, handing it an earthy pot-pourri like character. Not bad at all. In the mouth it’s well rounded and silky smooth with a substantial bitterness (46 IBU). She weighs in at 6% ABV, which certainly isn’t high for new world ESB’s but is for the more traditional English versions, and is quite well hidden in this particular brew. Lovely balance between the hops and malts upfront. There’s no doubt the chewy caramel and bready malts edge ahead but the combination of slightly citrusy hops and vibrant bitterness adds flare and extra character as it flows across the mid. Subtle hints of orange and pine assert themselves before leading in to a dry, bitter finish that provides reasonable length on the back palate. Midway through this beer we noticed the best by date was 19/7/16, we’re drinking this on 12/8/16 so it would be interesting to see how this ESB fares when drunk fresh. The hops are still active and flavoursome so we are only left to imagine. Still, nothing detracts from the taste and aroma so it’s just another solid offering from Deschutes.

Mornington Peninsula Brewery ‘Dogs Bollocks’ Nitro ESB

Rating:

13690696_542119615972188_883477072363803447_n“The latest #tinnage 004 is Dog’s Bollocks, a malty English pale and the first nitro beer in a can from Mornington Peninsula Brewery. Using nitrogen rather than CO2 to carbonate the beer produces a smoother thicker mouthfeel and less perceived bitterness as nitrogen is mostly insoluble.The NITRO pour. Exactly the opposite of the angled, slow CO2 pour. Just open the can and pour it as quickly as possible.”

Served in an English pint. As this is nitro we literally up-end it and watch on as the amber body gradually develops its frothy two finger head. Retention is excellent as it appears to hold at least a finger with some random patches of lace being left behind. The nose is very bready, very grainy and earthy with a delicate fruity sweetness in support. Floral hops come through as does a chewy toffee note that blends in well with a kind of peppery spice. There’s a certain aroma we can’t quite put our finger on as well – it’s a little dry and dusty, similar to wood shavings. Anyway, it’s certainly a traditional ESB aroma. In the mouth it’s a little flat with a thin-ish texture. Body is mild-medium. We were hoping the nitro was going to provide a bit more of a fuller/creamier body but not to be. Much like the aroma the taste is malty with bread crusts, earthy/spicy hops and a slight toffee/caramel sweetness. A gentle but noticeable bitterness forms through the mid along with suggestions of biscuity malt and nuts. A peppery spice is then followed by a dry and toasty finish that does seem to taper off a little on the back end. What really helped was the fact that it thickened up once it warmed, providing more of that typical creamy texture in the mouth. Beforehand it had a kind of hand pump flatness to it, although it’s common in most ESB, was not expected from nitro. Flavour-wise it’s traditional and hits its mark. All up it’s nothing more than your run of the mill ESB.

Epic & Hop Federation ‘House of Nicholas’ ESB

Rating:

13165954_517356888448461_4208350002436230774_n“This amazing tasting Epic/Hop Federation collaboration is a going to be a very popular beer. At a recent tasting 30% of attendees voted Heritage their beer of the night. Heritage has a malty nutty aroma and is golden copper in colour with a rich flavour of nutty, biscuity malt character from the Amber malt. The English grown hops are twined tightly around the malt in a flavour that is subtly herbal and Earthly. Hop flavour comes in very late in the after taste. Keen followers of Epic will love this great beer.”

Served in an English pint. The incredibly clear amber pour is topped off by a short one finger head that collapses to a fine overlay with wavy lace patterns left in its wake. Looks fantastic. Probably one of the most attractive ESB’s we’ve seen. The aroma is nice and rich – chock full of caramel sweetness, toast and nutty malts. There’s a lovely floral hop note that works beautifully in to the sugary honey/maple accents. Maybe some subtle stone fruits too, apricot or peach? Just a hint of earth and/or peat creeping in as well. Wow, gorgeous aroma, so multi layered with every aspect working in harmony. Brilliant. In the mouth it’s smooth and really well rounded, it gives the palate a good old coating. Co2 is moderate and the bitterness mild. It just rolls over the tongue with a super easy swallow – a real pleasure to drink. The combination of sweet and earthy malts initiate the flavour profile. The impeccable balance between sweet, earthy and caramelized is further complimented by a subtle floral hop character flowing through. The mid displays a gentle hop dryness as the earthy malts again drive forward in to a smooth, toasty and slightly nutty finish. Good length. There’s only one thing better than a traditional ESB and that is a new world ESB brewed to perfection. That’s what this beer is. All of the traditional flavours are here but they’re bigger, sweeter and well balanced too. These Kiwi brewers have nailed it. Solid offering.

Nail Brewing ESB

Rating:

12791050_486988114818672_3759157421998106691_n“John Stallwood, Head Brewer – A beer that is flavoursome yet sessionable. Solid with malt and balanced with high end bitterness. This beer is brewed for my partner Cindy who is an Extra Special Babe.”

Served in an English pint. This ESB displays a lighter hue than most – hazy amber center working to a deep golden edge. A compacted head develops on top but it rapidly reduces to a halo with a limited lace trail as it ebbs. Traditional ESB aromas hit the olfactory’s initially. Chewy malts, toffee, caramel and toasted grains are strengthened by a subtle berry tartness. A kind of pot pourri-like scent tacks on and brings with it an almost stewed apricot/peach aroma. We get a slightly briney or salty undertone too. Not bad, quite a well layered aroma. In the mouth it’s a little thin but it’s saved by a fleeting bitterness, although that seems to just fall away. Co2 is a little flaccid and the body is weak and watery. We feel it needs a bit of life pumped in to it….a quick check of the best by date shows it was bottled well over 6 months ago so the age could be affecting it here. Flavour-wise it isn’t too bad. Upfront a combination of sweet caramel, bready malts and a hint of spice and subtle herb carry in to a moderate bitterness midway. A faint hint of grassy/herbal hops progress into a leafy finish with a dull bitterness that almost conceals a gentle crackery malt on the back end. Is this a beer we’d rave on about? Probably not. Is it a beer we’d pan? No. Which leaves us somewhere in the middle. Fresh on tap this beer would be much better. Very undecided here. It has some good qualities but the bad seem to outweigh them.

Red Hill Brewery ‘Hop Harvest’ English Bitter

Rating:

image“The brewers were knee deep in our hops for this special brew, using hops just harvested from our own vines which were then steeped in our conditioning vats for months, this is a traditional English style bitter. Copper in colour with a strong malt character, balanced by the use of our new seasons Willamette and Goldings hops to create a full hop flavour and aroma. The complex grain bill provides a full, rich & malty ale that has hints of marmalade and lashings of hop resin flavours, finishing with a peppery spicy note.”

Served in an English pint. Pours a lovely deep copper with a soft reddy/pinkish hue. A big, mountainous three finger cap forms over the top, gradually breaking down and settling to a thick and fluffy overlay with a tonne of dense, sticky lacing clinging to the glass. One of the things we love about this brewery is the fact that they grow then use their own hops. In this particular brew the use of their own Willamette and Goldings impart a spicy and herbal note that’s coming off quite vigorously. We’re also getting plenty of stone fruits like apricot and peach that offset the caramel malt backbone. Maybe a slight toastiness too. Simple but very aromatic. In the mouth it’s full bodied and creamy with a somewhat gelatinous texture. Very smooth and moderately carbonated with a gentle bitterness that develops toward the back end. The palate inititates with a soft, sweet malt and a delicate fruitiness flowing through. Hints of orange and caramel are picked up across the mid which lead in to a light, dry finish. Decent length as we taste a subtle yet herbaceous character on the rear. Not a bad representation of the style at all. Also considering how well the 6% ABV has been hidden it does drink super smoothly. We reckon this would get the synchronised nod of approval from any ale-loving Pom. Good offering.

Lord Nelson Brewery ‘Victory’ Bitter

Rating:

12342742_458919924292158_284348989016135012_nOne of the main reasons it has taken us until now to review this beer is its uncanny resemblance to Australia’s horrific Victoria bitter. Luckily, though, Lord Nelson is a respected craft brewery and has released some pretty damn fine seasonal brews in the past. Fingers crossed it tastes nothing like VB!

Served in an English pint glass. Slightly hazy appearance with a bold amber hue. Very active carbonation, there are dozens of bubble streams ascending which form the frothy two finger cap. Solid head retention as well, hardly losing any height as it sheds thick, patchy lace trails down the walls of the glass. Well, looks great so how’s the aroma? Certainly very heady still so a lot of bready malts and subtle fruity yeast complexities at the forefront. A touch of floral and herbal hops do come through along with caramel and toffee notes. Quite earthy too with a soft spicy undertone. All very delicate but presenting a pleasant overall aroma. Quite fizzy across the tongue. Co2 is medium-high with a mild drying bitterness. The texture is well weighted with a nice full-ish feel. Drinks pretty well. The flavour profile kicks off with an earthy malt character, developing a slight toastiness through the mid. A subtle caramel sweetness hinges off the earthy malt and carries through to the mildly bitter and somewhat herbaceous finish. Decent length. So, as far as comparisons between VB and this go….well there is no comparison. This bitter has good drink ability, it has a nice rounded feel and a full flavour profile to boot. We are seldom rapt by non-English ESB’s but this one has seen us give the nod of approval. Kudos to the Lord!

Red Oak Bitter

Rating:

11224871_441445076039643_7316994761283540557_nAsk any Aussie which country is always the most pleasing to beat at anything and the odds are that most would say the Poms! The main two battles would have to be the Ashes (which we regrettably hand to hand back this year) and the Rugby World Cup (which the Wallabies just eliminated them from last weekend, woohoo!!) But it must really irk them, and this gives us immense pleasure, when we brew their own traditionally English beers better than them! This Bitter was awarded best Bitter at the World Beer Awards so let’s hope the beer tastes as sweet as victory!

Served in an English pint. The clear golden golden/amber pour arouses a gushing four finger head that takes an age to reduce, all the while omitting thick and sudsy lace trails as it ebbs. As it is still quite heady the aroma initially offers up a slightly skunky (dark bottle so we doubt it’s light-struck) character. As the head fades it converts in to more aromatic notes of tropical fruit, bready malt, caramel, grassy/herbal hops and a touch of orange tang. In the mouth it has a frothy texture which is boosted by a high level of Co2. Bitterness is mild along with the ABV (3.5%). Quite light on as well. The palate is met with a tangy/tart citrus flavour on entry. A dash of tropical fruit and a hint of caramel sweetness carries forward through the mid and rounds off with a soft, slightly dry, slightly bitter finish. Well, it certainly has session ability on it’s side, but other than that it’s a tad insipid and tiresome. These guys have to start bottling some of their better beers. Bottling only three or four out of a range of about twenty is just simply not enough. These guys have so many other better beers. Get bottling!! 😉

Hop dog Beerworks ‘Massive Otter’ ESB

Rating:

image“In an ever evolving industry, we are reminded never to forget our roots. Like how amped-up Double IPA’s once came from a hopped up pale ale born to fair the long sea voyage, and how modern rook and metal once dipped their collective toes into New Wave and Glam before punk and Hair metal. It’s true. The Massive Otter is a new world ESB – saluting it’s English heritage with 4 all English malts before thumbing its nose to tradition by employing Australian & New Zealand hops to fill it out. The Otter’s MASSIVE malt profile hints at biscuits and toast, while the Ella and Riwaka hops give it a firm bitterness and spicy, fruity melon & citrus aromas. This is more of an arena rock spectacular than a club show. Hit the lights! Pump the smoke machine and don your spandex like an anthropomorphic otter”.

Served in to an English pint. The heavily clouded amber appearance reveals a fair bit of sediment, some of which remain suspended with the majority settling on the base of the glass. Like most Hopdog beers, upon opening foam comes gushing out of the bottle so a quick and relatively aggressive pour arouses a big, frothy 3 finger head which peels off and retains a good 1cm cap. Laced healthily leaving a sheet of dense residue clinging to the glass. Another hallmark of Hopdog beers is this certain Bretty aroma that provides plenty of funk, sour lemon, barnyard, spice and hay. A vigorous twirl of the glass awakens deep tangy citrus along with very muted hints of toasted bready malts. In the mouth it’s smooth with a touch of dryness. Has a slightly frothy texture with medium-high Co2. Quite tart upfront, a little acidity from the lemon and a touch of the 45 IBU adds to the strange fore flavour of this ESB. The focus on the bretty, sour characters seem to overpower anything else this beer is offering. A touch of citrus comes through before a dry finish completes a pretty ordinary ESB. By the time we’d almost finished the amount of sediment that has settled on the bottom was off putting as we’re feeling chunks of it as we drink. Disappointing beer with no real ESB attributes whatsoever.

Morland brewery ‘Old Speckled Hen’ English ale

Rating:

image“If, like me, you like to hunt out a hen, well there are plenty of opportunities to find one. ‘Old Speckled Hen’ is in pubs and bars across the country in cask and also as a smooth version at 4.5% ABV.”

As the hen fears the fox the craft beer drinker fears the clear bottle. It’s beyond us why in this day and age that breweries would risk bottling their beers in clear or green glass. The reason is that the alpha acids in hops react very badly to direct light. This is why you see all craft brewers bottle their beers in brown glass. Oh well, we will see if this one has been affected.

Served in an English pint glass, the attractive amber pour holds up a fluffy one and half finger head that is retained quite well. As it reduces some thick blotchy lacing is being omitted. Lovely, rich and caramelised on the nose. It’s an all malt affair here as we pick up wafts of caramel, toffee, butterscotch, toast, nuts, maple syrup and subtle earthy hops. So typically English it isn’t funny but we can’t write it off, it actually is really nice. Very one dimensional…but sweet, sugary and aromatic at the same time. Not bad. In the mouth it’s smooth and quite light on. A little thin but it doesn’t ruin the experience. Very low on carbonation with mild-medium body. The flavour profile is a mirror image of the aroma with the palate being treated to lots of sweet, bready malts, caramel, toffee, nuts, butterscotch and honey. No real depth in flavour just a smattering of different malts on entry leading through to the finish. 5.2% ABV which is actually fine because this really isn’t sessional anyway. Although the sweet, caramelised, malty flavours are delicious anymore than one and it would start to become cloying. Not bad but nothing memorable either.

Red duck ‘Tiger Mountain’ Limited release espresso ESB

Rating:

imageWe bought this beer because 1. Red duck are bloody awesome and 2. We have never before tried or even heard of an espresso ESB. Don’t you just love craft beer? So, the Tiger Mountain name comes about by the addition of “a lot of Single Estate, Tiger Mountain coffee” which is all locally sourced and roasted then delivered to the boys at Red Duck on the day of the brew. Nice!

Now let’s get stuck in, we served this in a pint glass. Very deep, tawny appearance which reveals a gorgeous ruby red hue when held against the light. Compact head, reducing almost instantly to a fine dusting on top. Laces poorly. The espresso features firmly on the nose with its big, rich bitterness. Underneath the immense espresso aromas quietly and patiently sit roasty wafts of dark malts, charred wood, honeycomb, dark chocolate and cocoa. There’s also quite a prominent malt sweetness in here too. Nice depth and complexity. The mouth feel is creamy with a light tickling carbonation. Mild-medium body. As to be expected, espresso dominates the front-palate. Some nice roasty and earthy flavours begin to open up through the mid-palate which in turn delivers a roasted finish with a delicious espresso bitterness on the back end. Coffee flavours hang on for a while displaying lengthy duration. 5.2% ABV. Essentially, a pretty good brew. Espresso is front and centre, backed up by a good balance of roasty malts and earthy hops. Another fine addition to this breweries mammoth range of beers.

Firestone walker ‘DBA’ Double Barrel Ale

Rating:

image“Our flagship brew highlights barrel-fermented batches from our patented Firestone Union blended with beer fermented in stainless steel.  It opens with a biscuity toasted malt aroma and a hint of oak and vanilla.  Pale malts create a smooth malty middle with ribbons of caramel, English toffee and toasted oak. A tribute to English pales traditionally fermented in cask”.

This is a double barrel ale or an ESB/pale ale as the brewers like to describe it. Pours a clear copper into an English pint glass with basically no head. Scents of toffee, caramel malt, subtle spice, toast with very little hops. Definitely not floral. There is a nicely balanced and smooth overall mouth feel. There is a biscuity malt flavour on the palate with a firm plummy sweetness that’s nicely balanced out by a spicy hop finish. There is an alc vol of 5.0% and it’s apt. Mild carbonation and mild body. There is Definite bitterness, likely from an English hop variety as it’s that typical English type of beer. Much to our surprise it’s a very sessionable drop this one, and we love the fact that an American brewery has nailed an English bitter/ale. Jeez, everything these guys touch turns to gold. Another sensational drop by these American master brewers.

Birraficio toccalmatto ‘stray dog’ no rules bitter

Rating:

image“We took our beloved English session ale and traditional British hopping adding our touch with a dry-hopped American for an explosive fruity citrus. Excellent with grilled meats such as ham or classic shoulder of San Secondo. Cheese cow delicate as a young Asiago or Cheddar. Perfect with an evening at the pub”.

This is our first crack at this classy looking Italian breweries range. Served in a shaker glass the murky copper orange pour produced a thick, pillowy two finger head that persists. Thick, soapy lacing is left all the way down the glass. The first element we picked up in this slightly complex aroma was it’s earthy character. A lovely presence of chewy caramel, toffee and fig jam are backed up by doughy undertones of brioche and biscuit malt. A slight waft of butter is making us a tad wary (as this can sometimes means the fermentation process was cut short) but we proceed. In the mouth it felt frothy with a touch of mild-medium carbonation. Medium bodied. The tongue is initially met with a light dose of sweet malts, offering up hints of raisin and toffee. The sweet malts hold through the mid-palate which is accentuated with a mild presence of spicy hops. Tangerine and mandarin put a zesty and delicious signature on the finish. 4.2% ABV is low but, not to worry because the levels and the array of flavour in this beer is really surprising. Hats off to these guys, they’ve put a really tasty spin on a traditional ESB. Solid stuff.

Anderson valley ‘Belk’s’ ESB

Rating:

image“Inspired by the classic “Bitters” from Great Britain, our Belk’s ESB is an innovative take on the style. With a deep, golden hue and big malty foundation, the spicy, herbal hop aromas and crisp, bitter bite give a West Coast flair to this classic recipe”.

Served in a shaker glass the appearance displayed a slightly hazy golden orange with a fizzy 1 finger head. Good retention with reasonable lacing on offer. Firstly what hits the olfactory’s is the vibrant floral hops. Just underneath the soft citrus, apple and pine lies the biscuity malt, toast and grains you come to expect from English-style ESB’s. Maybe a slight hint of caramel in there too. Well balanced aroma, a very nice start to this beer. The mouth feel is dry and full bodied. Medium carbonation with a saliva sapping bitterness on the tongue initially. Maybe a little peppery spice to boot. The mid-palate is more malt driven with hints of biscuit and toast balancing out the really hoppy fore flavour. Again the astringent bitterness paired up with a subtle but sharp addition of booze (6.8% ABV) finishes it off with decent length on the back end. The bitterness does subside as we got closer to the bottom of the glass but still seems to slightly overpower the malty or toasty flavours. Not too bad though, still enjoyable.